Paramount Theatre restoration advances in Cedar Rapids

Part of marquee removed for updating

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Published: April 15 2012 | 12:30 pm - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 4:43 pm in
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Restoration of the Paramount Theatre, damaged in downtown Cedar Rapids flooding in 2008, advanced Friday when part of the marquee was removed to be enhanced with modern technology and lighting. Here’s a look at the downtown mainstay:

PARAMOUNT HISTORY

  • Opened Sept. 1, 1928, as the Capitol Theatre; for one year it provided a live stage show with comedians, singers, dancers, acrobats, audience singalong with the Mighty Wurlitzer organ and a film.
  • Purchased by Paramount Studios and renamed the Paramount Theatre in 1929.
  • Building gifted to to the city of Cedar Rapids in December 1975, renovated and reopened.
  • $7.8 million expansion/renovation in 2003; reopens Jan. 7. 2004.

ABOUT THE MARQUEE

  • Original marquee topped with vertical Capitol sign reaching above the building.
  • Theater name change brings new vertical Paramount sign.
  • Current marquee installed in 1985 by Nesper Sign Advertising, the same company that installed the original marquee and is updating the current one.

FLOOD DAMAGE

  • June 2008 floodwaters rise 8 feet on the main floor, fill the basement and subbasement, causing $16 million damage.
  • December 2008 water line breaks, flooding basement, subbasement and nearly filling the orchestra pit.
  • $34.5 renovation under way for flood-damage repairs, building code upgrades, hazard mitigation, upgrades for performers, performance spaces and audiences.
  •  Grand reopening set for November 2012.

WHAT ABOUT THE MIGHTY WURLITZER?

  • 1928 organ console destroyed in floods; pipes and instruments housed in second floor chambers are safe above the water line.

  • Replacement console — the next one built after the Mighty Wurlitzer — is purchased from a private collector for $7,500, arrives in Cedar Rapids on March 11, 2011.
  • Replacement console and pipes shipped to Reno, Nev., in February, for renovation and decoration to match the Mighty Wurlitzer’s ornate design.
  • “New” console to be on display when Paramount reopens in November

Sources: Darren Ferreter, Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society president; http://cr-atos.org; www.uscellularcenter.com/PTf/history.html; www.cedar-rapids.org/city-news/crprogress/paramount-theatre/pages/restorationprojectplans.aspx

Curated by Diana Nollen, Dave Franzman, Terry Coyle, Jim Riley/The Gazette

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